Siggraph Briefings

Democratization – is it a good thing?

People are coming home from Siggraph with their heads full of new ideas and big hopes for the future. If you didn’t get to go there are great resources for catching up. The keynote is already online and, appropriately enough, it is a celebration of the pioneers of computer graphics. One of the great things about this information age is that it’s not so hard to catch up if you didn’t actually get to go to a conference. There are several sites for papers including a site for Siggraph papers online and a sort of bewildering technical papers preview on YouTube. Not only do you feel like you’re drinking from a fire hose, but you’re in danger of whiplash as well. 

To a very large degree, the world graphics community is committed to sharing and open source technologies, which is all in line with Siggraph’s primary function as an educational resource.

At Siggraph, the computer graphics industry comes together to share advances and discuss trends. Increasingly, the entertainment industry has taken over the exhibition but Siggraph is still primarily about visualization: how can we bring the world we see into the world we work with on computers. This year too we saw a bit more of virtual reality as a few head mounts were spotted here and there and people were pursued by Beam telepresence robots.

JPR held its annual luncheon at Siggraph with the help of sponsors Autodesk, Dell, HP, Intel, Lenovo, Lightworks, and Nvidia. The luncheon was very well attended and the panel was very animated.

As part of the luncheon program, JPR asked the sponsors to weigh in with the ways they’re seeing these market forces play out. After all, they’re building products and plotting strategy according to these forces. The papers are available at

The panelists included:

Joe Herman, Legend Animation, animator, instructor, journalist.

Joni Jacobson, executive producer at Pixomondo.

Dr. Paul Navrátil, researcher and manager of the Scalable Visualization Technologies group for the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Michael Romey, head of production pipeline at Zoic Studio.

Dr. Lincoln Wallen, CTO of Dreamworks Animation SKG.

Discussion continued long after the panel officially ended. A quick review of the goings on is available at Graphic Speak (, but what seemed most notable was the openness of the panelists, who were primarily from the film industry, with one outlier from the HPC community (Paul Navrátil said he felt like a character from Sesame Street when it’s time to play which of these things is not like the others). However, they were all interested in exploring better and more efficient ways to get complex jobs done and they had absolutely no trouble finding common ground.

From left: Dr. Lincoln Wallen, Joni Jacobsen, Joe Herman, Mike Romey, and Dr. Paul Navrátil. (Picture: Omid Rahmat, JPR)


The world is becoming a smaller space, but the demand to see what we’re thinking using computers is growing. Sadly enough, that doesn’t necessarily translate to more money and higher wages for everyone.

BYOD, DIY, globalization, cloud computing, mobile computing, and outsourcing—they’re just buzz words, but they represent worldwide trends that are changing every industry from product design, to advertising, to game development and entertainment content creation. It’s been playing out dramatically on the streets of Hollywood and in the newspapers as the VFX industry manages change.

Attendance at Siggraph is actually holding steady though it has declined over the years. We can hope that perhaps it has leveled off, considering the information shared at the conference is so important to development in all areas of the visualization industry. (Source: JPR)



These trends will continue to circle the world. In the U.S. there are signs that manufacturing might come home to the West as wages and costs go up in China, India, and Latin America, and new models emerge that enable more efficient methods. The same could happen in the creative industries as well. Creative people in Asia aren’t necessarily competing with their peers, they’re also creating content for home grown content: movies, games, and children’s animation. Yes, there is change and upheaval, but as markets seek to reach their levels like water in a highball glass.